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I’ve been a tech junkie for a very long time. It seems that whenever new technology appears, I’m fairly quick to try it out.

Several years ago, I bought a MakerBot 3D printer. Early adopters know that purchasing new technology is usually expensive – this model had a price tag just north of $2000. Using it, I’ve learned the mechanics of how these amazing devices turn long rolls of plastic filament (PLA) into very detailed solid models. The prize is a collection of plastic models that adorn my office and the house. To be honest, I haven’t had a need for additional 3D models, so the MakerBot has been sitting unused for the past few months.

At this past January’s Consumer Electronics Show I ran across a couple of new 3D printers. And while the technology is no longer new, the prices of several of the printers are now within the grasp of many more consumers. My interest in a second 3D printer was motivated by my curiosity about the quality of the finished models compared to the more expensive MakerBot from a couple of years ago.

New Matter is a relatively new manufacturer that makes the MOD-t 3D printer. I purchased one directly from New Matter bundled with additional filament and accessories for $350 – a huge price difference vs. the MakerBot from a few years ago.


The MODt is small in size and can easily fit on a desktop. When operating, the continuous movement of the base plate mechanism creates a a noticeable noise. The clear plastic cover keeps the noise level down. 3D models are created by emitting melted plastic filament (PLA) from the heated extruder. The PLA is supplied in long rolls of different colors. A 150-meter length roll of PLA costs about $20.

Here’s the MODt at work as it lays down a few thin layers of melted PLA. A few minutes later, several more layers have been added revealing more of the model.

This is the completed 3D model. You can see that the completed project shows a tremendous amount of detail. The patterns for models are available free from many online 3D libraries. This model was available from the New Matter 3D library.

This model was printed as two separate parts. Afterward, the base and the launcher were combined to turn it into a working catapult. This white model was also printed as two separate parts – the bottom circular plate and the tall intricate vase. Complex models may take a few hours to complete.


I’m impressed with the quality of the finished 3D models, especially at the rock-bottom $$300 price. For more information, please visit New Matter.



Remote Photography Made Easy

At this year’s Wedding & Portrait Photography International (WPPI) trade show I made it a point to watch several live demos of drones. Why, you may ask, are there drones on exhibit at a conference dealing with photography? Well, judging from their impressive video capabilities, drones are frequently used to record weddings. Although it’s been a while since I ended my stint as a wedding photographer, I’m still quite taken by the possibilities and usefulness of drone photography.

After talking to a few of the drone sales representatives at WPPI, I purchased the Mavic Pro. This compact unit has many impressive features – foldable rotors, interchangeable battery, gimbal mounted 4K video camera, micro SD card to record images, remote controller with multiple flight modes, live streaming to your smart phone.

Following, I’ll give you a quick look at some of the above-mentioned features that I make this a worthwhile investment for my flying pleasure – and the pleasure of a few of my grandkids.

When not in use, you can fold the rotor arms. This makes it very easy to carry the Mavic from place to place. On board sensors guide its flight path away from obstacles such as trees or buildings. The Mavic’s battery is rechargeable. Each charge provides about 25 minutes of flight time. Since the battery is also interchangeable, you can carry a spare to extended your flight outings.

The built-in video camera provides very good quality images owing to the 3-axis gimbal that steadies the movies. Video images are stored on an interchangeable micro-SD card. You can also stream live video to an attached smart-phone.

You can connect your smart-phone to the remote controller. Use the controller to start and stop video recording, point the camera in a different direction or take still photos. The smart-phone screen displays the live camera imagery. Additionally, the DJI app lets you change drone settings and view vital information and statistics. Users can command the drone to follow and record a specific person or object from up to 4 miles away. Wave at the Mavic to snap a still photo of you on the ground. Or plot a course for the Mavic to fly using multiple waypoints. The controller is very capable.

Newbies can fly the Mavic using several foolproof ways to avoid crashing. Here’s my grandson taking his first flying lesson using Beginner Mode. You can see that this still photo taken remotely by my grandson demonstrates the high quality of the Mavic’s on-board camera.

Below is a series of Mavic clips that I’ve combined into a short movie. Note how smooth the video plays due to the steadying effect of the gimbal mounted camera.




The Mavic Pro sells for about $1000. For more information about the Mavic Pro please visit DJI.



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Hover and Shoot

You don’t ordinarily think of looking at drones at the Wedding and Portrait Photography International Conference & Expo. However, DJI had a booth there showing off the new Mavic Pro.

At the DJI booth, representative Laura Schutz showed me the company’s newest drone. She emphasized that drones are now simpler to fly. And drones are now much more affordable.

Users have invented innovative ways to use drones for airborne photography. DJI, a pioneer in the industry, recently released the Mavic Pro which builds on the simpler and affordable features.

The Mavic Pro is compact. When not in use, the rotor arms fold tightly against the unit’s body making it easy to store and transport.

Owing to its efficient motors, flying time is up to 27 minutes at 40 mph.

The unit’s remote controller has a range of more than 4 miles. It can send livestream directly to popular smartphones.

Mavic Pro has five built-in sensors that can detect and avoid obstacles during flight. There is also a set of backup sensors that can take over in case one is malfunctioning.

Specifically for photography is a camera that shoots 4K at 30fps mounted on 3-axis gimbal for smooth, jumpfree video. Stills are captured at 12MP.

Its GPS capabilities enable accurate positioning whatever your location.

In “ActiveTrack” mode, the drone follows or flies alongside the subject.

In “Gesture Mode”, the Mavic follows you until you give it the go-ahead to snap your “selfie”.

The “Terrain Follow” mode flies the drone at a fixed altitude above the ground.

This Mavic Pro is taking video footage of me.

The Mavic Pro has many features which set it apart from other drones. The DJI website has many videos that demonstrate these features.

The suggested price of the Mavic Pro is $1000.

For more information about the Mavic Pro, please visit DJI.


Written by: Arnie Lee





Canon’s Latest Mirrorless

This past February at the Wedding and Portrait Photography International Conference & Expo, I stopped at the Canon booth to take a look at the company’s new M5 mirrorless interchangeable lens camera.

Canon is best known for their full featured DSLR cameras. Although I own several high end DSLRs from both Canon and Nikon, I’ve been a devoted user of mirrorless cameras for at least five years owing to the compact size and electronic viewfinder that I highly value.

Sony has been a leader in the mirrorless realm with Fujifilm, Panasonic and Olympus close behind. Canon has been playing catch up with its M series for a couple of years. I now consider the M5 a strong contender.

The new M5 now uses a 24MP sensor with Dual Pixel AF for faster and more precise autofocus. This is Canon’s first M series with built-in viewfinder. The M5 combines in-camera digital and optical lens stabilization. The tilting LCD has doubles as a touchscreen. And the camera has a built-in flash.

This is the Canon M5 with the 18-150mm EF-M lens.

The tilting LCD also functions as a touchscreen. Touch the screen to activate focus manually.

As you can see the M5 has a convenient, dedicated exposure compensation dial.

The M5 also captures full HD 60p movies in MP4 format. The touchscreen can be used during video operations to affect focus.

The camera includes Wi-fi and NFC capabilities as well as bluetooth to send images to a smartphone.

The suggested price of Canon M5 with 15-45mm EF-M lens is $1099. The suggested price of the Canon M5 with the 18-150mm EF-M lens is $1479.

For more information about the M5, please visit Canon.


Written by: Arnie Lee





PhotoPlus Expo 2016

28th September 2016

Like A Kid in A Toy Store

As a long time follower of all thing photographic, I’m attracted to places where I can see, touch and fawn over new and innovative photographic equipment, accessories and services.

The upcoming PhotoPlus Expo 2016 Conference and Exposition is magnetically drawing me to New York City where more than 250 exhibitors will gather to show off their latest products and services. It’s the largest photography and imaging show in North America and has the distinction of more than 30 years of continuous operation.

Additionally, dozens of noted professionals and instructors will conduct 100+ of in depth seminars and classes demonstrating posing, lighting, wedding, portrait, marketing and photofinishing techniques.

Over the many years that I’ve been attending PhotoPlus seminars and demos I come away a little smarter as a photographer. Unfortunately (for my wallet), I also leave itching for new camera equipment and accessories.

The conference includes daily photo walks where attendees will explore the sites and streets of New York City accompanied by well-known professionals.

One standout is the Drone+ Seminar led by photographer George Steinmetz as he shows his aerial films. Also joining him are representatives form the FAA that will explain regulations concerning commercial drone photography.

PhotoPlus takes place October 19-22 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. With the completion of the #7 subway last year, getting to Javits is an easy ride from other areas of the city.

If you share my enthusiasm for photography, visit PhotoPlus Expo 2016 for more details. Maybe I’ll see you there.


Written by: Arnie Lee



Sony A7 II

22nd March 2015

New Full Frame Mirrorless

I’ve been using several of Sony’s mirrorless cameras for three years or so. The three models that I regularly use are the NEX5, NEX7 and A6000 each with an APS-C size sensor. All three are compact and lightweight. Both the NEX7 and A6000 have viewfinders – a necessary feature that I expect in an advanced camera.

The A6000 has been my “go-to” camera for the past year. The quality of the images match up to those from the Canon 7D and Nikon D90 but with the added convenience of a noticeably smaller piece of hardware.

With this previous experience with mirrorless equipment, I went to the Sony booth at the Wedding & Portrait Photographers International Expo to have a look at the new full-frame Alpha 7 II.

The A7II has a full size 24MP sensor in a body that weighs a mere 21 ounces. This compares to the Canon 5D MkIII at 33 ounces or the Nikon D800 at 35 ounces. The physical size of these three cameras are (W x H x D) A7II is 5″ x 3-7/8″ x 2-3/8″ Canon 5D MkIII 6″ x 4.6″ x 3″ Nikon D800 5.7″ x 4.8″ x 3.2″

The A7II shares many of the same features of the A6000 including sweep panorama shooting mode, built in HDR, on board wifi connectivity, electronic viewfinder displays real time adjustments and tilting LCD screen. Unfortunately the A7II does not have a built-in flash as does the A6000. However the A7II records 4K video, sports fast “hybrid” autofocus and 5-axis image stabilization and 5fps still capture.

As far as lenses are concerned, Sony’s mirrorless versions (designated as FE-mount) do not share the same size and weight savings as the A7II body. But given that the body is about a pound less and considerably smaller in size, I felt that the weight savings would be a definite advantage for the type of shooting that I do in the field.

Sony also announced the release of these three lenses for full frame mirrorless:

The Sony rep also mentioned an upcoming 28mm f/2 lens that will also accept a 16mm fisheye converter and a 21mm ultra wide angle converter.

The suggested price is $2000 and is available about May 1st. For more information about the A7II, please visit Sony.

The bottom line – if you’re looking for a camera that provides the high resolution that only the mid-size format were able to deliver, the Canon 5DS (and 5DSR) has now lowered the entry price by thousands of dollars.

Written by Arnie Lee

CES 2015 – The Drones

24th January 2015

The Consumer Electronics Show – Drones


For more than 30 years, I’ve started the New Year with a trip to the Consumer Electronics Show. CES is the premier showcase for new and innovative techie products that are in line to hit the store shelves.

This year I notice the proliferation of 3D printers and picture-taking drones at the show.

Earlier, I wrote a short article about 3D Printing Technology that I saw at CES.

There’s plenty of controversy surrounding the use drones for commercial purposes, manufacturers from around the world are gearing up for battle as they try to outdo each other on features, price, and speed to market. This article presents several of the picture-taking drones that I saw at the show.

Robotix Ghost+

This is the Ghost+ quadcopter.

Its payload is a GoPro camera mounted on a controllable gimbal and has a GPS receiver, gyroscopic controller for smooth flight, retractable landing skids and can stay airborne for 18 minutes.

The WiFi module lets you stream the video remotely to a smartphone and/or tablet.

The suggested price of the Ghost+ is $1300.

For more information about the Ghost+, please visit Thunder Tiger Group.


DJI Inspire 1

This is DJI’s newest model – Inspire 1. It has a bult-in gimbal-mounted 4K video camera that can be remotely positioned, real-time feed to the controller and automatic takeoff and landing.

while in the air, the landing pods fold into the “up” position for obstruction-free video recording

Price is $3400 with dual remotes – one for flight control and the other for camera control.

For more info, please visit DJI.


Proto-X FPV

The FPV quadcopter is equipped with a 1280 x 720p video camera.

Notice that the controller has a built-in video screen that displays the captured video in real time. It is gyro stabilized for steady movie.

The suggested price is $350.

For more info, please contact Hobbico 

Zano – the nano drone

Zano calls itself a “sophisticated nano drone”. It’s so small that it fits in the palm of your hand.

Your smartphone or tablet is the controller. Simply tilt your phone left, right, forward or backward and the Zano follows. Other onscreen icons control the altitude, rotation, capture, etc.

This is a prototype model and Zano tells me that production begins in July 2015. Price in UK Pounds £170.

For more information, please visit Zano.


As a former participant in the flight simulation industry, I’m in awe of the drone “landscape”.

As I watch these new models flying at CES, I am amazed at how quickly the technology surrounding drones has progressed. In addition to highly competitive prices, these devices are much easier to fly – many with auto takeoff and auto landing capability – and features such as gimbals, streaming and navigation are truly impressive.

Written by: Arnie Lee


For Movies on the Move

For several years now, GoPro has demonstrated the overwhelming popularity of action videos. They have built an empire of a business around its brand.

Sony’s HDR-AS100V and newer, yet slightly smaller HDR-AZ1 cameras are the center of their video system for recording action in the field. Both units pack lots of features into a very compact space: 1080p with image stabilization, stereo sound, high speed recording, 170-degree view, interval recoding, and WiFi and NFC equipped and GPS (AS100V only).

They are ruggedized and are waterproof, shockproof, dustproof and freezeproof without having to purchase additional accessories.

This AZ1 which is 2/3 the size of the AS100V, is mounted on a drone. Using an optional Live-View Remote (RM-LVR2V) which straps to your wrist you can control the AZ1, change settings and view the playback from afar.

The included Action Cam Movie Creator software lets edit your footage into complete, quality movies using the special recording features e.g. high speed recording, merging multiple clips into a single clip, etc.

There are a whole host of accessories for the Action Cam system including various camera mounts and straps for bicycling, surfing, boating, diving, snow sports and skateboarding.

List price for AS100V is $279 and for the AZ1 is $249. For more information, see the Sony ActionCam webpage.
Written by: Arnie Lee


Light Field Technology

I made it a point to visit all of the booths at PhotoPlus Expo looking for new and interesting products.

At the Lytro booth, I learned a new term: Light Field Technology. With this camera, the direction, color and brightness of the light rays are captured by a specialized sensor array. Afterwards, this information can be “processed” to refocus and change perspective.

The Lytro Illum is a new, second generation camera to capture light field photographs. Lytro refers to these images as “living pictures”.

The Illum is fitted with a 30-250mm zoom lens with f/2 constant aperture. It has a 4″ tiling LCD viewing screen and weighs just over 2 lbs.

The fast f/2 lens provides an 8X zoom range. Images are stored on an SD, SDXC or SDHC card.

The specialized CMOS sensor has ISO range from 80 to 3200.

The camera also has built-in WiFi for transferring images directly to a smart device.

You can preview the images on the LCD and immediately see these living pictures as the focus and perspective change.

The LCD is touch sensitive – you can touch the part of the image to refocus. A “Lytro” button displays an overlay on the screen that displays the depth of field of objects, indicating the range of refocus.

Use the included Lytro Desktop software to upload to Lytro’s web (no charge) or to Facebook. Viewers can post comments about your pictures on the Lytro Gallery. When you upload, the software creates an animated gif file that animates the refocusing and change of perspective capabilities.

To see this interesting light field technology, visit the Lytro Gallery where you can experiment with these images by moving your mouse over the area to be refocused. I think it’s an amazing technology.

The Illum is available now at a list price of $1599 includes battery and ND filters (since aperture is fixed at f/2).

Written by: Arnie Lee


Getting Personal

03rd December 2013

Camera Brands are like Religion

Not a week goes by without someone asking me what brand of camera they should buy, a Canon or a Nikon.

Most of the time they’re wanting to replace their good quality point-and shoot camera. They’re looking for more advanced equipment along the lines of a DSLR.

Having owned or used literally dozens of cameras, especially in the past five years, I have a definitive answer which I’ll share with you shortly. But what I find interesting is that so many photo enthusiasts also have very definite answers to this question.

Let me back up a bit and explain why I’m writing this.

A Facebook friend wrote that he was looking for a new DLSR. “Should I buy a Canon or a Nikon?”, he posted. I replied “or a Sony?”. The point I was trying to make was that there are more choices than only Canon and Nikon.

A few minutes later there were many more replies on his Facebook status: “Nikon”; “CanonCanonCanon”; “I shoot Nikon”; “I use a Nikon D90”; “Canon definitely”; “I have a Nikon 5000”; etc.


It’s not surprising that a camera brand is a very personal choice. It is as though each photographer is pleading with my friend to heed only his or her suggestion. Isn’t proselytizing their brand like forcing a person’s religion onto another?

Yet when I think about it I was doing the same. I was suggesting that a Sony NEX camera is similar to DSLR but without the weight and bulk. And since I am very fond of carrying lightweight equipment, I frequently use a Sony NEX camera.

Of course I could have chosen a different way to respond to his initial post by asking a few qualifying questions: will he be taking lots of sports or action; are movies part of his photography repertoire; how much money does he have to spend.

But frankly these qualifying questions don’t matter much.

Here’s my answer to his question: it doesn’t matter if you choose Canon or Nikon. Both have equally capable cameras in the various price ranges. And Sony also has equally capable cameras. One could argue that Pentax and Olympus also offer quality models too.

There’s too many slanted opinions for my friend to make his choice based on all of the Facebook replies. I hope my friend makes his choice based on how the equipment feels in his hands; getting the most features for the price; availability and affordability of additional lenses; past experience with previous purchases.

What do you think? Any comments?


Written by: Arnie Lee







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